I can recall lying on the bed one weekday evening as a young teenager, listening to my white six transistor radio tuned to the local radio station when the reporter said there would be no school tomorrow in Lee County, because of the statewide teacher’s strike. I thought of Mr. Stamper on strike and that did not compute, he was too dedicated to teaching me math; neither could I picture Mr. Hollon, my English teacher walking a picket line, since the only walking I ever saw him do was from the back to the front of the class talking with great enthusiasm about Twain or Poe, Hemingway or Shakespeare.
Looking at the current landscape of higher education, under assault by think tanks and statehouses across the US, getting no serious support at the federal level, being deprived of collective bargaining rights in many cases (although they cannot deprive us here in Tennessee, since we have never had them), being effectively asked to churn out graduates one way or another, with no concern for quality; and finally, being outflanked by competitors who are the real diploma mills with whom we have never imagined we might stoop to compete, but with whom we are apparently now being lumped.
I know a lot of people who work in education, P-12 and 13 and beyond and I must say, most of them are like my revered high school teachers; focused on the subject and students they love; and of course, that is a wonderful thing; but at what point will we need to engage more vociferously in the national debate surrounding the state of education in this country. It seems to me politicians and even business people are much more animated in their concerns than those of us who actually work in the profession. I suspect most of us know changes are needed, but are we to not have any say in the direction of those changes?
During this coming year, our faculty senate will be visited by representatives from the CWA union and there is already a plan in place to bring a higher-education budget consultant who happens to be an officer with the American Association of University Professors, to our campus to discuss such matters as the percentage of money we spend on instruction as opposed to more extraneous things, the size of our classes, our teaching workloads, and generally; the state of affairs at UTM (along with UTC, UTK, and UTHSI) from a budgetary standpoint.
Do you have an opinion on the current state of higher education and what our role as University Professors ought to be in shaping its future? If so, commenting on this blog is one way to express that opinion.
I hope you have a great weekend.